MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Last week, China strongly criticized the United States after the naval destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly archipelago in waters claimed by several regional powers. Washington responded that the maneuver was not in violation of international law.
"By matching our words and our diplomacy with routine freedom of navigation operations, we’re making it clear that the United States continues to favor peaceful resolutions to ongoing disputes and that our military will continue to fly, sail and operate whenever and wherever international law allows," Adm. Harry B. Harris said at Peking University in Beijing, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
He stressed that the South China Sea "is not, and will not, be an exception."
According to media reports, the US Navy intends to patrol the area twice per year quarter.
The United States does not recognize the Chinese claims of sovereignty over the man-made islands, and has repeatedly raised concerns over Beijing’s activities in the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said after the incident that China considered the passing of a US warship within 12 nautical miles of the artificially created islands to be illegal and a violation of China’s sovereignty.